archive

Monday, January 9, 2006

Why We Hate Clinton

Why do we hate clinton? No, “hate” is not the word. Loathe? Despise? Abhore? The word, le mot juste, escapes me. It’s a cross between pity and contempt. And regret. And anger. But whatever the specific name of the disapprobation we feel, what is its cause, the etiology of this malady of so large a part of the body politic?

It wasn’t his politics. Politics is about compromise and manipulation, and there can be no complaint that the other side wins when it can. They think they’re right, and they’re not wrong for pursuing their goals, whether or not their ideals are objectively beneficial. Through disagreement we learn who is right.

It wasn’t his lack of integrity. Nothing extraordinary in that, in a politician or in just anyone. Hardly anyone is worthy of his blessings. It wasn’t his draft-dodging or his dishonesty about it -– anyone could see this for what it was, and at most it engendered disdain. It wasn’t his perjury or his obstruction of justice –- cowardice in high office is no surprise. It wasn’t the contempt of court fine he agreed to and paid, not the five-year suspension of his license to practice law. Big deal, right? We disapproved of him long before these things were known.

Not the rampant sexual-harassment charges he faced, or the near-million dollars he paid to settle one such. No. It wasn’t his corruption that made him so disgusting.

Not his proven and disingenuously admitted adulteries, not his betrayal of his family, of those who loved and trusted and depended on him. Not the shame his appetites brought to his wife and daughter. Many men do such things, and need not be “hated” for it. Society has had a traditional role in judging such matters, but the role of social scorn is weak and fading nowadays.

What was it, then?

It was the fact that he was President of the United States. That he was President. That a man who stood for nothing except ambition and a sucking need to be popular, should stand beside the giants who have lead this nation. That a man of such shoddy and mediocre character should represent this nation.

Charm? Certainly. Celerity of intellect? Undeniably. Likeable? I watched him on Charley Rose, and I wanted to like him. Such a waste of gifts. True potential for greatness, stuffed into such a small man. He was the funhouse mirror image of what a president should be – a dwarf who seemed large, a fool who seemed wise, a frog in a prince’s office.

It was never his politics. For all that Carter was the worst president of the last century -- the Buchanan of the 1900s -- he still isn’t despised like clinton. To find an equivalent, we must look to Nixon. If, for the sake of argument, we count clinton and Nixon as counterparts in their character flaws, and equal in the contumely their respective adversaries feel toward them, and if we count as equal the lust for power and the power of lust, then there remains, to distinguish between these two presidents, their effect in history.

A complex question. But Nixon has a number of achievements that might be called important ... Russia ("detente"), and Vietnam, ("peace with honor") and China (an opera) ... ending the draft, lowering the voting age ... anyone remember the wage-price freeze? -- devaluing the dollar and going off the gold standard? He was responsible for the 55 miles per hour speed limit. Well, he did raise taxes and impose tariffs and duties -- how ... how clinton-like. What of importance did clinton achieve? Something about taxes happened, I seem dimly to recall. Um ... don't ask don't tell ... uh ... nothing else springs to mind.

We understand, we all do, that heroes fail. It is a disappointment to us, and we are scarred by it. But we expect that the man can grow to fill the office. This happens. Truman comes to mind. We understand that a man’s reach might exceed his grasp. When a man has grasped what he reached for, however, he should strive to be worthy of it. Publicly clutching a big black Bible doesn’t take the place of soul-searching.

So, clinton failed, and he was insincere. But that’s not why we “hated” him. Why, then?

We “hated” clinton for this reason: he used America the way he used women. For himself.


J

7 comments:

fallout said...

jack,
let me first say its 330 in the morning, and i just got done blowing off. revision is necessary, yes. i probably should respond to you when i am more awake, but i'll write some. and lets not count the ways we disagree, because clearly we do. this is a good conversation, not an arguement.


Mr. Clinton was president into 2001, yes. i realize that. but only for how many days? and how many of those days really affect the statistics i was talking about?
also, by quickly going over http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1998/resources/lewinsky/timeline/ this website, i cant seem to find anything about his previous political woes, or anything of that matter...it seems all about Lewinsky, the sex scandal, and then possible impeachment, at the very bottom. impeachment for lying about sexual relations?.........

Forgive me for not going into depth on my views on Clinton and his leadership. no, you're right, he didnt do much. but, i feel he did a much better job than Bush has done. i could say the same to you, as you stated in your blog about Clinton... -- "That a man who stood for nothing except ambition and a vacuumous need to be popular, should stand beside the giants who have lead this nation. That a man of such shoddy and mediocre character should represent this nation." i feel the same about W. Bush. you may not feel that Clinton was qualified/the right person; i never said i did. I dont agree with some things he said, stood for, etc. i feel that George W. Bush is the fool who can't be wise. again, you and i probably have completely different political views. and again, i'm venting at 3 in the morning.

i realize we did not "declare war on cuba". i used my words incorrectly.

i do understand the 4th amendment. however, i would assume by your comments, that we have different political views. and yes, my site is opinion. i do use and consider facts, but it is an opinion site, an outlet for me. *unreasonable* searches, yes...but i do feel that the power has gone too far and *unreasonable* may not necessarily what/where it was intended.

and yes, i do understand that the president is granted certain powers by the constitution. i was just exclaiming my concern and disappointment/anger at how far he takes his "grants", as did many people, not just democrats, that called in to comment after Bush's State of the Union.

and yes, i do understand that i am not an important person. i'm a college student. not sure where this comment came from........but who knows? maybe tomorrow it will be someone else who finds my blog, not just you, but a political person, who thinks i'm a threat? probability, slim. but.

i thank you for your comments, and i'm sorry mine back are just "yes" -- as i said, its quite late..or early, depends how you look at it.

keanan

Jack H said...

Greetings K. Cut to the chase: If crime started to rise in 2000, then…? Um, who was president? And not for a few weeks, but for eight years? I’ve found it’s pretty useless to presume that the other side is filled with idiots and criminals. Most people have non-vile motives. Whether we fail through greed or sloth or cowardice or stupidity, none of these are unique to Republicans or to Democrats, and to demonize is to diminish oneself. Point being, it really does seem unlikely that the election of GWB has any measurable role in an increase in crime, be it in 2000 or even later. Tip O”Neill wrote a book, as I recall, entitled *All Politics Is Local* - it was certainly his motto. All crime is just as local. The Pres has the bully pulpit, and can be a sort of national cheerleader. (One reason why character matters.) But to attempt to make even a tenuous connection here – well, it is unconvincing. It seems shallow and partisan.

Point out the positive achievements of Clinton, and I will agree. We may dispute opinions, but we demonstrate facts. We really need to distinguish between “evil” and “just wrong.” In some of my little postings, I go way over the top, and I use extreme language in a farcical way, in an unsubtle attempt to point out the ugliness of bigotry. In moments of more refined thought, though, there are very few people I view as evil. It is, so much of it, just a matter of perspective. That’s why, in serious discourse, emotional language isn’t all that useful. And blame is to rationality as vituperation is to discourse.

There are people who are just always wrong. Jesse Jackson comes to mind. But that’s just opinion – a reflection of my principles. Different values, different conclusions. This is where moderation comes in. I’m hard right. But a moderate. Hmm. How is that possible.

Impeachment for perjury and obstruction of justice. If he didn’t wish to answer, he could have stood on his Constitutional rights. He lied, instead, under oath. Either you get it, or you don’t. I couldn’t care less about his wiener. I know no conservative who does. His private actions were shameful and betraying and cowardly, but the articles of impeachment make no mention of them. It is his public actions that matter to us. Again, you get it or you don’t. But surely you can distinguish between lying, and perjury? *No, honey, I didn’t pee on the toilet seat. It wasn’t me! Really!* *No, your honor, I didn’t molest that woman. She’s lying.* Hmm. I see a difference.

Re Bush/Clinton, we recognize and agree that we disagree. I would say that the facts re Clinton are in evidence and undisputed. We all know his character. But there is hot contention over Bush’s character. He was a lackadaisical frat boy, a slacker and a drunk. Who got saved, who reformed his character, who cleaned up his act. There is shame in this? He is faithful to his family and his values. This is honorable. You disagree with his policies? This is not a character issue.

Again, facts are demonstrated, not asserted. “Bush knew”? “Bush lied”? These are conspiracy-monger, fever-swamp, Kool-Aid-drinker slanders. The lunatic right had the same sort of nonsense against Clinton: Mena Airport. Vince Foster. Is there nothing of substance, that we need to find conspiracies? My point is there are many flaws with all presidents. But very few of them have been criminal scum. Clinton isn’t scum – just a small, wrong man, as I see it. Bush, I would hope you agree, isn’t scum, or evil. He just has different ideas than you do, about how things should go.

Re what is a reasonable or unreasonable search, honorable men may disagree. But to vilify whom you question is simply childish. If “the power has gone too far” and isn’t what it was “intended” - well, other men of good-will have a different interpretation. I do.

I meant no insult, re “important person”. My point is that the idea of an invasion of privacy has to be balanced with the demands of the real world. There is no right that is absolute. Both the right and the left have a history of mistrust of government, and a history of enlarging its powers. How odd. But for all my jealous regard for privacy, I feel no fear of the NSA. If the FBI opens my mail, it would be creepy, but I have nothing to fear. It’s like someone seeing me on the toilet. Creepy. But, honestly, big deal. Government is a balancing act between public safety and individual rights. There’s a gray area involved. To go after political enemies is out of bounds. To go after military enemies is demanded. I’d say Bush got it right.

Nothing resolved, here. Just a hand offered, in friendly disagreement.

Best,

J

Jack H said...

I should have clarified that the comments from K arise from my comments on his blog:

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=21731492&postID=114024605357825774

J

OBloodyHell said...

> it seems all about Lewinsky, the sex scandal, and then possible impeachment, at the very bottom. impeachment for lying about sexual relations?

No -- impeachment for lying UNDER OATH.

Amazing though that may seem to you, it's a crime.

Yes -- A CRIME.

One people GO TO JAIL FOR.

Regularly.

Had he not been President, but some mere Arkansas lawyer in a sexual harassment suit -- it would have been taken *quite* seriously... and likely resulted in conviction and sentencing.

That he was a President who pushed an anti-harassment agenda, including some of the most ridiculously draconian laws on the matter possible -- ones which required clear restrictions of freedom of speech -- is also of some relevance. Such sheer, unmitigated hypocrisy marks the nature of his loathesomely despiccable character (or lack thereof).

Does Clinton deserve to be in jail? No -- as long as "it depends on what you mean by 'No'", anyway.

The recent actions of Carter are the only reason that Clinton isn't the clear favorite for the worst president ever, to say little about how he ranks as a human being... Of course, Carter has had 30 years to bolster his legacy of evil and incompetence. So Clinton still has time to solidify his legacy.

Jack H said...

N, you've made me smile.

*It depends on the meaning of no, no?*

Thank you.

J

Jack H said...

I prefaced this with the following (since moved here, in the interest of posterity, but also acknowledging that it's a dated reference): Well, first … Helmut? Again!?! I guess he’s some sort of virus.

I have managed to track him down, after a fashion. And trust me, he seems a very fashionable gentleman. He hasn’t responded to any of my attempts to contact him, but I have the impression that there’s some sort of cross-linkage going on here (and I don't mean the old rugged cross). For all I know, some of my postings may be showing up on his site, where ever that may be. Must be causing quite a number of hissy-fits. But, being me, I cannot allow anything to go un-responded-to, so:

Kelsey said...

witty and elegant, a great read with a firm point made. Well done sir.